Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The world of foodies

I have met many foodies. Many have been close family and friends. Based on my interactions with them I have several observations. A foodie, as I see it, is one who appreciates good food, understands the many nuances of food and is interested enough to go after information that will enable him to enrich his food experience. A foodie is also often a very adventurous eater who likes to understand and then experiment with many different types of food.
My fondest memories of a foodie whom I appreciated very much were the Jiggs Kalra- Pushpesh Pant duo. In the 1990s Jiggs was a food advisor with the Oberoi group and he and Pushpesh used to write a column for the Saturday Times of the Times of India. They studied foods, its effect on the human body and the many flavours that they could be enticed into revealing. I still remember the aphrodisiac food festival at the Oberoi where he had served me a many course snacks menu explained in great detail the various foods and spices that had aphrodisiac qualities and the ways in which they were adapted to modern cooking. Today Jiggs is a master writer and a restaurateur but to truly appreciate the depth of his knowledge, you need to understand the way his knowledge works.
I believe that the most successful foodies are those who can understand food, eat good food with relish but not let it settle in their middle. There is nothing appealing about a fat man gorging on good food in a television show or even in pictures. Even at a meal together, it is fascinating to see a wiry and well maintained person waxing eloquent on good food and actually relishing the food rather than picking at it to maintain his or her figure.
Another foodie I would like to mention is my good friend and former editor Prabha Chandran. Prabha loved food and was adventurous enough to taste all kinds of food. It was a pleasure to go out with her for a meal because the conversation often veered towards how good a particular dish was and why. The foodie always goes behind the why. And to remain interested in food, she was a compulsive runner who ran a minimum of 8 km per day to work off all the calories and be ready for the next tasting.
A foodie is also one who’s adventurous gastronomically. My nephew Praveen has been known to suffer discomfort for the sake of trying a new dish. For instance, the – meal where he had to finish a pound of meat and a plate of fries, or the hottest chilly in the world was all part of the game to him. When he started talking about rum and how it should be drunk, it was a passionate rendition of the qualities that make the drink enjoyable and the ingredients that can enhance it.
Food is serious business to a foodie and any extra effort is worth his or her while. At the end of the day, it’s the pleasure associated with the gastronomical journey and not just the destination that’s important. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Passport blues

My son's passport was to be renewed and that familiar sinking feeling was taking hold of me. The first step was to get a date at the passport office in Gurgaon. Thanks to a good travel agent in the family that was the least of my concerns.
I was told that you have to get all the documents ready. Since I was in a hurry and was willing to pay that little bit extra I was applying on Tatkal, the quickie passport service. But now came the first whammy. If you want your passport soon, get hold of a gazetted government official who would verify that the applicant was of good moral character. Does this make sense? A 12-year-old 8th grader needs an official who has never seen him to attest that he is of good moral character?
Be that as it may, we finally got that prized date at the passport office. A time that clashed with school timings. However, a helpful official agreed to let us come at 2.30 pm, just after school. The officials were helpful and courteous but as we waited first for an hour to receive the token, then the move through counters A, B and C with halls where there was grossly inadequate seating and weak air conditioning , I wondered how the officials kept their sanity. with the small snacks counter providing muffins and coffee as sustenance, harried applicants wound their way through the entire rigmarole waiting for their final letter informing that the process was over and all they need do now was wait for that passport to be delivered to their house in five working days. Small routines, but ones that make the life of an Indian citizen an endless challenge. Can this process ever get better? considering that the systems are managed by the country's eminent IT company TCS, can this process not be simplified? Can the halls in the passport office not be made bigger? Can the AC not work more efficiently? Can the citizen not have to wait for four hours for the process to conclude? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eggless Pineapple Souffle - Jaya Ammayi style

One pineapple - medium size
Milk - 600 ml plus 1 cup
Gelatin - 3 level teaspoons
Condensed Milk - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 cup

For topping
Marie Biscuits - 6
Cashew nuts unsalted and caramalised - 10

Skin the pineapple and coarsely grate it. Stew with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Remove from heat after all the water has evaporated. Keep aside to cool.

Melt gelatin in a teaspoonful of milk first till completely dissolved. Now add rest of 1 cup of warm milk.

Boil 600 ml milk with 1 cup sugar. Boil for 5 mins till it is slightly thick. Now add the gelatin mixed milk and 1 cup of condensed milk and mix thoroughly on fire. Remove from fire and keep aside to cool. When cooled to room temperature add the stewed pineapple and refrigerate.

For the garnishing

Lightly fry cashews in ghee till golden brown and coarsely grind along with marie biscuits and use as garnish before serving

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What makes a compelling character in a book or movie?

Hyperink.com Question of the Month
I like characters that are multidimensional and multifaceted in both books and movies. For instance, my son and I have read every book in the Harry Potter series many times and we still come up with new facets of the characters that we never noticed before.
Compelling characters are those that are neither black nor white but crafted in shades of grey. For instance, was Snape good or bad? In the first few books, we tended to hate Snape with a passion. Harry was more or less the victim and Snape seemed vicious and unreasonable. But as the entire story evolved, Snape seemed more a victim than a persecutor and my sympathies slowly were for Snape. Even then I don't think I switched completely from Harry to Snape. Harry remained my favourite but I did not dislike Snape quite so much. Rather I disliked him but could find it in me to forgive him for the vicious attacks on Harry. When he killed Dumbledore and walked out, I quite detested him but in the last book, it was obvious that he was actually saving Dumbledore from humiliation and pain.
The see-saw of emotions that this revelation of Snape's or any other character in a book or a movie is what makes the character interesting. After all, in real life too nobody's character is good or bad. They are a mixture of reactions to circumstances and intrinsic nature.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Coping with grief

My sister lost her only 22-year-old son just over a month ago. A child who was vivacious, full of life, witty, humerous, the apple of everybody's eye and the focal point of my sister's life.

And the family is left struggling with the grief. My sister does not want to live life any more without him and daily chores are an effort for her to go through. Her husband is trying to drown himself in work to escape the grief. My other sister, who was his foster mother and best friend of sorts, is grappling with her grief silently.

But I saw a remarkable phenomenon in the circle of friends that my nephew and my son were part of. They closed in on my son and provided whatever emotional strength he needed to cope with the loss of a cousin who is just two months older than him and who has been his buddy throughout life. The same group also threw a ring of comfort round my sister and her husband in their trauma. A visit now, a meal demand then. The integration was complete. The message clearly is, you have lost a son, but gained a bunch of kids as your companions.

The struggle to cope with the loss of a child is beyond anybody's comprehension. However, anyone else who has gone through such situations may have a word of succor. Sincerely look forward to how you came to terms with your loss.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Some more about special education

I have been writing about a child with special needs whom the formal education system in the form of public schools in Delhi have been giving a difficult time, for some time.

But there is hope yet, and it comes from an unlikely source. The child was finally removed to a government school which is usually looked down upon. The teacher now only pushed the child to perform better but actually restored his faith in himself and he has actually performed reasonably well in class and been sent up to the next class. So much for our public school/private school divide.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Technology to the rescue you said?

Travelling by rail, last week, I decided to check on my cellphone, the confirmation of the railway ticket for the return journey. And got this reply:

H1 http status 404/witness/witness size=1 no shade=no shade some more squiggles followed. Status report witness/witness more squiggles
requested source not available apache tomcat end.

Left me wondering whether I had mistakenly sent this message to a departmental store.

However, the last part of the message seemed to indicate that I had sent a message to the US airforce.

Certainly did not help me with my rail reservation status.

My old trustworthy telephone told me - sabhi line vyasth hain. kuch der baad dial kijiye. (All lines to this route are busy. Please dial after some time.)

Technology as a solution provider, you said?